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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Disease biogeography: spatial and temporal analyses of infectious disease burden at the country-level scale provides new insights and challenges

  • Author(s): Heard, Matthew J.
  • et al.

In a recent study, Wood et al. (2017 Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. B 372, 20160122) utilized a novel set of spatial and temporal analyses to identify which factors were most strongly correlated with changes in human infectious disease burdens from 1990 to 2010 in 60 countries. Using the statistical analyses and findings of this article as a framework, I have identified three important insights and challenges that this research presents for disease biogeography moving forward. First, the main factor still limiting disease biogeography research progress is underreported or absent data – particularly in the case of neglected tropical diseases. Second, the use of disability-adjusted life years instead of indirect measures of disease burden should be a focal point of disease biogeography research since it allows for comparisons of lethal and non-lethal diseases. Finally, disease biogeography studies that utilize country-level statistical analyses may be better at identifying demographic and economic drivers than environmental or biological drivers.

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